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Numbers Game: Hurricanes sign Semin

Scott Cullen

7/26/2012 4:47:47 PM

When no other team offered a lucrative, multi-year contract for a skilled offensive player coming off a down season, the Carolina Hurricanes provided a soft landing spot.

Numbers Game analyzes the Hurricanes' signing of Alexander Semin.

The Hurricanes Get: LW Alexander Semin.

Semin, 28, is an extremely talented player who has frustrated coaches and fans alike for not performing up to his capability.

He's coming off back-to-back 54-point seasons which, in a year with a shallow free agent pool, should have been enough to command greater interest on the open market. But there's no reason to think that Semin turned down many suitors offering multi-year, big money deals in order to sign a one-year deal with Carolina.

As with all players there are postives and negatives and, in Semin's case, the negatives seem to get a lot of play.

Let's start with the good.

Over the last six seasons, Semin has scored 187 goals, good enough for 15th in the league, yet his 133 even-strength goals in that time ranks fifth (between Rick Nash and Dany Heatley). Over the last four seasons, Semin is plus-92, which ranks fifth in the league and highest among all forwards not playing for the Vancouver Canucks (Zdeno Chara, the Sedins and Alex Burrows are higher).

However, those credentials, and the elite-level skill that Semin possesses, tend to get overlooked because of a negative perception regarding his commitment and general demeanour. This isn't to suggest that those aren't real concerns but there is value to be found in a skilled player whose attitude isn't the best.

Vague notions of attitude and commitment aren't the only concerns with Semin. Semin's 21 goals last season represented his fewest since his rookie season in 2003-2004 and the 16:47 per game of ice time that he played was also his lowest since his rookie season. 

There are some reasons beyond lack of ice time for mediocre production, however. Sure, at times Semin skated with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom on the Capitals' top line, but his most common linemates at even-strength during the season were Jason Chimera and Mathieu Perreault (per www.leftwinglock.com). Both players have some skills, but both hit career highs last season with 39 and 30 points, respectively, so it wasn't likely that they were going to raise Semin's offensive output.

In Carolina, Semin should be put in a situation in which he can maximize his scoring opportunities, whether that's on the top line with the Staals or even with Jeff Skinner on the second line.

Perhaps a greater reason for concern with Semin's game is that he didn't generate the same kind of shots on goal numbers that had been a traditional strength for him. Last year, he registered 2.38 shots on goal per game. In the previous five seasons, he averaged 3.31 per game, dipping ever so slightly under 3.00 shots per game once (2.94 in 2007-2008) in those five years.

It's pretty simple: when the shot totals drop off, it's much harder to maintain the same goal-scoring pace.

Semin has been ripped for his postseason production in recent years as well. He has scored 12 points in 30 games over the last three years, with zero goals on 44 shots in a seven-game loss to the Montreal Canadiens in 2009-2010 providing ammunition for critics.

Could he use a strong playoff performance to shake that reputation? Of course, but it's not like he's never produced in the postseason -- he scored 22 points in his first 21 playoff games.

Washington didn't seem to want Semin back, which is fair enough. Many teams walk away from players after their worst season, but they will need more scoring from the supporting cast to make up for the loss of Semin. Marcus Johansson may be the prime candidate to take on a bigger offensive role in Semin's absence.

Declining numbers and a reputation that isn't the best allowed the Hurricanes to swoop in and sign Semin to a one-year, $7-million contract, the kind of low-risk investment that, even if Semin falls flat on his face, can't possibly be a long-term problem for the franchise.

If the one-year deal dangles a carrot in front of Semin to produce so much that he earns a long-term free agent deal next year, all the better. In the meantime, the Hurricanes should be applauded for finding value with a high-upside free agent signing.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.